Friday, October 26, 2007

The New Fascism

This week has been designated by a coalition of organizations as Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. It's a week given to the discussion on campuses of the nature and threat of Islamic radicalism. Speakers at over a hundred colleges have been addressing the problems before audiences of students, faculty and interested community members. Many of those audiences have been hostile and some of them have been appallingly so.

Consider, for example, what happened at Emory University, where the concept of the free exchange of ideas is evidently anathema to the neo-fascists of the left. At Emory, students and others took it upon themselves to deny listeners the opportunity to learn about global jihad by noisily and rudely disrupting the event until the speaker, David Horowitz, himself a former left-wing radical, finally had to give up.

As this report on the incident explains, this is precisely the tactic used by the Nazi brownshirts in the Germany of the 1930s, and it has, or should have, no place in America. Unfortunately, there's very little of traditional America which remains on some of our university campuses.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the report:

Throughout the lecture, many protesters were waving their signs, and yelling "Does George Bush respect anybody's rights?" and "Are we going to talk about who killed JFK?" The colorful expressions shouted by protesters included the generic, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay. David Horowitz, go away!" and "stop the war for oil," as well as more creative "why don't we talk about fascism in America?" and "no more torture in our name." When Horowitz warned the audience of the threat of a nuclear attack, someone yelled, "Be afraid, be very afraid," nearly bursting out into an impromptu dance. The audience used a lot of rancorous laughter to disrupt the speech.

As soon as Horowitz commented on radical Islam waging war against the West, someone predictably yelled, "do you think it has anything to do with Israel's treatment of Palestine?" When Horowitz talked about Christians burning Jews at the stake during the crusades and Jews finding Muslims to be more hospitable, someone shouted "That's exactly what Ann Coulter is calling for now." When Horowitz mentioned that Jews and Christians are now treated as second class citizens in much of the Muslim world, a loud applause shot up from the audience. When Horowitz tried to bring up the treatment of women and issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), the audience chanted, "That's not Islam."

Although the actions of campus leftists culminated during David Horowitz's lecture, in reality what transpired is indicative of what has become a toxic environment on today's university campuses. Conservative viewpoints are repeatedly stifled and censored, and often those who dare to question the left-wing orthodoxy are treated as second-class citizens on campus. Emory University is no exception, and has once again demonstrated the campus community's utter intolerance and inability to engage in civil debate.

For Horowitz's thoughts on the evening's proceedings go here.

When your ideas are intellectually bankrupt it would be counterproductive to engage your opponent in debate. All you can do is shout him down. When you hate your country as much as these people do, any enemy of your country becomes your friend, even terrorists. It's pretty sick.


Cosmic Coincidence

Newsweek's science writer Sharon Begley talks about the phenomenon of cosmic "dark energy" which is thought to be responsible for the fact that the expansion of the universe is actually speeding up rather than slowing down. This dark energy is believed to result from sub-atomic particles popping into existence of the vaccum of space, but there's a problem. The energy that would be produced by this process is calculated to be 10 to the 55th power greater than the dark energy of the universe. Something must be cancelling out the surplus and doing so with an astonishing level of percision. Were there just a little more dark energy the universe would rip apart. As Begley puts it:

[S]omething else cancels out all but a smidgen of the energy from the popping particles. That something else is anyone's guess. Worse, the precision of the required cancellation-erase the ink on every magazine ever printed except for exactly one comma, here-strains credulity.

Indeed it does, and add to this incredible fine-tuning the fact that dozens of other cosmic parameters are similarly precise and it just boggles the mind. For example, it has been calculated by Roger Penrose that the initial entropy of the universe had to be exact to one part in ten to the 10 to the 123rd power or else a universe suitable for life would not have formed.

This sort of unimaginable number is an embarrassment to the materialist who is compelled by his metaphysical beliefs to argue that such incredible calibrations are merely a fortuitous accident. Many materialists, however, are so uncomfortable with this line of thinking that they've retreated to the refuge of the "many worlds" hypothesis. This theory, for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence, states that there are as many as 10 to the 500th power universes of all different types. With so many possibilities, the argument goes, there has to be at least one suitable for life and we're it. In other words, by raising the number of worlds we can lower the improbability of the existence of a world as finely calibrated as this one is.

Begley writes:

...unless "the" universe is actually only one of many universes. Cosmologists are seriously entertaining that possibility. In the big bang that started our universe, little bits of space might have pinched off, said physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas. Each pocket universe could have different features. In one-ours-the improbable cancellation of most of the cosmological constant would have occurred, leaving just enough to explain the dark energy.

The irony of the many worlds hypothesis is that it's not a scientific idea because there's no way to test it, and neither is there any evidence for it. It's an ad hoc metaphysical theory developed to lower the astronomically high improbability that our universe exists purely by chance. Since it's a philosophical hypothesis it is on the same plane as its only real rival, the concept of cosmic design. This is bad news for the materialist, to be sure, since there is a way to test competing metaphysical claims - Occam's razor, i.e. the principle that the simplest explanation that fits all the facts is the best.

In the present case the simplest explanation is that there's just a single universe which has the parameters and laws that it does because it has been intentionally designed to support life. The alternative, that there are a near infinite number of undetectable universes which exhibit the entire range of possible values for their physical parameters, is refuted by its own extravagance. If it weren't that this theory is the only way scientists and philosophers could rescue their materialism, no one would be caught dead endorsing it.

In order to avoid the conclusion that the universe is intentionally designed materialists have to resort to a highly speculative and ad hoc theory that makes a shambles of the principle of simplicity. Not only that, but it doesn't really help anyway because it raises more difficult questions: If there are all these universes what is producing them and why should we expect they would have different parameters than our universe? Why not expect that they be identical to ours? And what's generating these different universes and their parameters and laws in the first place?

Perhaps Ms Begley will write about those questions in a future column.


Re: Taking a Bite Outa' Crime

A student of mine responds on our Feedback page to our post titled Taking a Bite Outa' Crime. He shares some interesting thoughts. Check it out. RLC